North of Beautiful

AuthorJustina Chen Headley
Pages: 373
Publisher: Little Brown Young
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads)As he continued to stare, I wanted to point to my cheek and remind him, But you were the one who wanted this, remember? You're the one who asked - and I repeat - "Why not fix your face?"

It's hard not to notice Terra Cooper.

She's tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably "flawed" face. Terra secretly plans to leave her stifling small town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob's path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?

Written in lively, artful prose, award-winning author Justina Chen Headley has woven together a powerful novel about a fractured family, falling in love, travel, and the meaning of true beauty.

My Summary: Terra is the kind of girl you love to hate - she has the perfect body, perfect hair, perfect boyfriend, and perfect grades. The only thing not-so-perfect about Terra is her face, and the huge port-wine-stain birthmark that dominants a huge part of her cheek. Terra has grown up with this 'deformity' (in the words of her emotionally and psychologically abusive father), and she's grown used to the stares and the whispers and the disgust she sees on other people's faces. Her only comfort is her art and the fact that within a few months, she'll be done highschool (after only 3 years) and off to a distant college, away from her stiflingly small town and her dictator of a father.

But then her father finds out she's applied and flat-out refuses to pay for anything but the nearby college, and Terra is stuck under her father's thumb yet again. 

Resigned to her fate, Terra concentrates her efforts on 'fixing her face'. Without the support of her father, she and her mother make the 5-hour trek to Seattle to undergo an experimental procedure. On the way home, they literally run into Jacob and his mom - and set off a chain of events that changes Terra's life forever. 

My Thoughts: I have a confession to make: it took me almost a year to get around to reading North of Beautiful. It's not that I didn't want to  - I just kept buying books and pushing it to the back of my to-be-read shelf. After a while, I completely forgot about it... until a few days ago, when I was re-arranging my shelves. I saw it and immediately decided it was time.

First off, I loved the depth of the characters. Each was so well developed, and even the minor characters had a history that helped you understand why they were the way they were. Terra was a believable, relate-able character - even though it infuriated me that she didn't stand up to her father more often. I also adored Jacob - he was real but still someone you wish you could be around (another literary crush... gosh, it's getting hard to keep track).

Second, I loved the way the author addressed the topic of beauty. We always hear that beauty is only skin-deep and that it's what is inside that counts, but we never really take it to heart. In North of Beautiful, we seen just how painful Terra's struggles to make herself 'beautiful' really are as she allows herself to undergo dozens of laser treatments that don't have any affect. I personally loved her epiphany at the end of the novel.

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to all teenage girls over the age of 14, and anyone looking for a great read that encompasses romance and travel and becoming who you were meant to be. I'll definitely be looking into the author's other novels!


  1. Sounds like an interesting read. Great review!

  2. I thought this was a great book. And you wrote a great review. I don't know why it doesn't seem that this book gets much hype -- but it should. This is an old review -- so not very detailed -- but in case you want to read what I thought....


  3. I like the premise and the cover of this one. Awesome review!

  4. Nice post! Nice review!

  5. Wonderful review! I would love to pick this one up my next time around a bookstore.


tell me what you think!